Women in Academic Surgery Are Winning a Fair Share of National Institute of Health Grants

Women are underrepresented in the field of academic surgery, but women surgeons are earning a disproportionate share of research grants from the National Institutes of Health, a new study led by researchers at the University of Virginia has found.

Women make up 19 percent of surgery faculty at academic health systems, but held 26.4 percent of prestigious “R01” grants in place at surgery departments as of October 2018, the researchers found.

“Female surgeon-scientists are underrepresented within academic surgery, but hold a greater than anticipated proportion of NIH funding,” said researcher Dr. Shayna L. Showalter, a breast surgical oncologist at the University of Virginia Health System, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Virginia’s medical school, and a co-author of the study.

Diving deeper, the researchers determined that women were more likely than men to be first-time grant recipients. More than 73 percent of women were first-time recipients, compared with 54.8 percent of men. “Within the research community, we are potentially moving away from the tradition of awarding funding to longstanding, proven researchers,” Dr. Showalter said. “Females in this study were twice as likely to be first-time grant recipients. I hope that the focus continues to be on awarding funding to a diverse group of surgeon-scientists.”

Also, the study found that women who held R01 grants were more likely to be part of a department with a female chair or one that is more than 30 percent female.

The full study, “The Changing Face of Academic Surgery: Overrepresentation of Women Among Surgeon-Scientists with R01 Funding,” was published on the website of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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